From coast to coast, Canada’s electronic music scene is on the rise with women at the forefront. Although a part of an underground culture within Canada, the varieties of EDM scenes across the country have been rumbling just below the surface of Canadian music. Yet at some point all volcanoes erupt, and the once quiet rumble becomes an unstoppable overflow. This is precisely what is taking place within Canadian electronic music today, and women are helping to direct the current.
From DJing to producing, to founding and organizing festivals, to running music agencies, women are taking the lead and showing no mercy. As within most industries, men are the dominant force of electronic music across the globe. Yet Canada is proving itself not only to be continuously developing a strong EDM culture but also to have powerful women taking it upon themselves to also have a hand in running the show. Yet despite bearing the title, being known as a female DJ is the last thing that any of these women want to be identified as.
“I hate being called a female DJ. You don’t call a guy a male DJ,” sighs Mama Miche. “Sometimes women are just booked for the sake of an all-female line-up. It’s not based on whether or not that combination of people actually fit well together musically on the bill.” According to Miche, founder and head of Stirling Agency, it should never be about whether the performer is male or female, but about what they bring to the table as artists and performers.
Fortunately, gaining popularity and respect as a DJ on the basis of artistic merit and not on gender has been the overall experience for these women within Canada. “I never noticed that being a female was a factor,” reflects Tank Gyal on being the first lighta! member, one of Vancouver’s notorious DJ crews. “I don’t feel like I’m a female in a man’s world,” says Vilify, host of Montreal’s legendary Bass Drive.
From playing the clubs to touring festivals, Canadian female DJs are finding that being a woman in the DJ booth is becoming less and less of an issue. However, within other parts of the world, being a female DJ is still considered taboo. “I’ve played in places like Las Vegas and Jamaica where I get onto the stage and people are just looking at me like, ‘What is this white girl doing on the stage?’” says Tank Gyal regarding her experience playing dancehall. Vilify also found that when touring Europe, crowds were often shocked to discover that the DJ from Canada behind the decks was actually female. “Dudes would come up to me and say, ‘Woah! A girl that can actually mix.’”
Back in Canada, however, it’s everybody’s game, and the air of equality within the various electronic music scenes across the country is proving to be more conducive to women’s aspirations. “Canadian women are doing really well, especially the ones who have taken charge of the ownership of what they’re doing,” remarks Isis Graham, member of Girls On Decks, Canada’s longest running all-girl DJ collective.
‘Making it’ within any of the arts is difficult, and the electronic music business is no exception. “It’s all about who steps up to the plate,” states Miche. Regardless of whether the DJ is a man or a woman, here within the world of Canadian EDM it’s about the quality of the music and supporting all that are passionate about it. “I have a philosophy about this,” concludes Graham. “If everyone in your community is doing well, then you’re doing well.”
Tank Gyal holds it down during Ting! Thursdays at the Astoria Pub in Vancouver.
By Hollie McGowan
Photo: Antony Doniewski